Browsed by
Tag: Bahamas

A Perfect Way to Say Goodbye to the Bahamas

A Perfect Way to Say Goodbye to the Bahamas

Spanish Wells was amazing, but our two weeks at the private dock was coming to an end and we had a decision to make: Keep going south (knowing that meant a longer return trip to Florida) or start heading back to the States.

Since the conception of this idea to go cruising in January of 2016, we have always sought to hear the still small voice of God and lean on any direction he was giving us at the time. You may think God doesn’t care about cruising plans or whether we go north or south, east or west. Many people think his guidance only matters if you are a missionary, traveling the world carrying Bibles in your backpack. But that is a perspective we do not share. Our goal isn’t to over spiritualize every little thing, but at the same time we don’t want to disregard the obvious presence of God in the details of our life. God definitely cares about the details, and we believe that means more than compulsory attendance to a religious service. It means more than dropping an offering in a basket, and it means more than trudging through an earthly life hoping to get to a heavenly one.

Like a tour guide, we know we can point out the presence of God to others wherever we happen to be. We believe God can direct us to people we are supposed to meet, conversations he wants us to have, a place he wants us to see, a city he wants us to pray for, an opportunity he wants us to take part in. We’ve seen God do amazing things in the smallest of circumstances, and we’ve seen God bring small things together in a really big way. It’s a life we would not want to have any other way. Because of this, we try not to have solid plans, plans that make it impossible for God to redirect us.

Getting ready to leave Spanish Wells, I (Brittany) began feeling uncharacteristically unsettled. As much as we loved the Bahamas, and even though we had plans to meet another cruising family, I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that we shouldn’t continue our travels south. Mike and I prayed about it and waited to see how the next few days would unfold. Would we even have the weather windows to travel back to Florida? Would the other cruising family understand that we wanted to change our plans? (They did, of course). It turns out the week ahead of us held a wonderful weather window for traveling west. Very little wind and calm seas were the forecast, and we knew if we didn’t take that weather window, we would have no idea how long we would wait for another. We didn’t feel like waiting, so we decided to begin the four day journey back to Florida’s east coast.

Egg Island

Our first day leaving Spanish Wells was a short day, positioning ourselves off Egg Island to shorten the next day’s mileage. There we met another kid boat anchored near us and we invited them to Egg Island’s beach for the evening. The evening turned out to be a magical night (except for the incessant NO-SEE-UMS!) talking with the Mom and Dad on s/v Salt Shaker, hearing their stories and watching our kids play freely on this unpopulated island.

A tree swing, a sign of past cruising kids on the island

The mom on s/v Salt Shaker showing Haven the water

My husband, Mike, surprised me by making a little fire on the beach, something I told him I really wanted to do while cruising. We made very messy, but delicious s’mores on the beach using the half bag of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars I was saving especially for a night like this.

Everyone helped to make the fire

Each cruising family we meet is special!

The crew on s/v Salt Shaker brought a treat for us too, firecrackers!

Firecrackers!

A spontaneous gathering with another sweet cruising family, decadent s’mores, sparkling fireworks…all on empty beach with the sun sinking behind dense trees- every bit of this night was beautiful.

We didn’t plan this night, and that made it even more perfect. A perfect gift to us as our last time on shore in the Bahamas. The family on s/v Salt Shaker were also headed back to the States, their cruising journey coming to an end and their life on land resuming. A beautiful night for us all to remember. A perfect way to say good-bye to the Bahamas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxing in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

Relaxing in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

After a couple of weeks in the Berry’s, we were ready to make our crossing to an island in the far Bahamas called Eleuthera. We heard raving reviews of cruiser’s time spent in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera and we were ready to find out for ourselves. We had moved around a lot in the Berry Islands, from anchoring outside of the island, to inside at Great Harbor Cay, then twice in Hawk’s Nest Cay that we were more than ready to stay solidly in one place.

Taking a walk in Spanish Wells, something we did everyday

Once in Spanish Wells, we rented a private dock and stayed for two weeks. The private dock was far cheaper than a marina dock fee and we could spend our two weeks easily getting on and off the boat to explore the island. Strong winds rolled through right after we arrived, so we were even more grateful about tying up to a secure dock. Even more perfect, the house directly in front of our dock housed a sweet local couple with a girl Marlee’s age and a boy a little younger than Hannah. We soon became friends with this generous family!

Hannah on the dock
The girls and their new playmate fishing in her backyard

With gorgeous turquoise waters gently rolling into crisp white beaches, bright flowers in front of candy-colored island homes, and the typical laid back island feel, Spanish Wells was the perfect place for us to take walks, play at the beach and just relax. But Spanish Wells also had the kind of grocery store that we were used to back in the States (albeit still more expensive), plus restaurants and ice cream shops as wells as shopping, so it didn’t feel like some other places in the Bahamas where resources are limited.

The water was captivating
Exploring the beach
Haven really began to enjoy being in water

We found the people to be friendly and accommodating. Their tight knit town has a strong belief in community and God, and the island holds three prominent churches despite having a population of only about 1600 people. There was an additional church on another part of the island for the Haitian community that resides there, and even a separate church for the Mennonite/Amish families that also live on the island. We loved being invited to The People’s Church services, meeting more people in the community and being able to get a feel for the life of the body of Christ there. Being able to visit and study God’s word with other believer’s around the world has been a dream that God began planting in my heart a few years ago. We have been able to visit a few different kinds of congregations along the east coast (a Messianic synagogue in Virginia, a budding home church, a Kingdom Hall in Florida) and two Baptist-style congregations in the Bahamas so far and they have all been interesting and eye opening experiences!

Other things that we did in Spanish Wells include a fun, local favorite on the island, an ice cream shop called Papa’s Scoops which only opens for three hours at night and only serves two flavors a night, each night boasting two different flavors. Their homemade ice cream was so good we went back several times enjoying flavors like Goombay Punch (a local soda), coconut and root beer.

Papa’s Scoops!
Goombay Punch and Vanilla ice cream

Probably one of our most favorite experiences though, was being invited to tour our friend’s (the husband who lived in the house in front of our dock) lobster boat. Spanish Wells is largely a fishing town, relying heavily on the revenue from catching lobster and crab. It was really neat being able to see first hand what many of the men in the town do for work. It was a wonderful “worldschooling” experience for the girls as well!

The local fishing boat we toured
Showing us around the deck
Peering down the hole where the lobsters at stored
Where the lobster’s are hung and kept frozen

We loved Spanish Wells, the people, the colors, the small-town community. Now to decide where to go from here…move on to South Eleuthera or head back to the States? We were torn, but felt God whispering the right direction to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embracing the Unexpected (Or How Our Fridge Broke on a Remote Island in the Bahamas)

Embracing the Unexpected (Or How Our Fridge Broke on a Remote Island in the Bahamas)

Sunset near Great Harbor Cay

Bimini would soon be behind us as we set off for our longest day passage yet- 83 miles that took 12 hours of motor sailing. We were ready to discover a more unknown side of the Bahamas, the Berry Islands. They are less traveled and underestimated as a cruising ground, but worth the stunning views.

The first evening, daylight was slowly fading and we didn’t have enough sun to make our way into the anchorage, so we anchored just off the island as the sun was setting. There was nothing but ocean behind us and gorgeous clear waters beneath us. It was probably the most magnificent sunset we’ve seen, and I’m not sure any other will top it.

sunset on the ocean

Our first couple of days on the Berry Islands were a whirlwind of activity. We met a another family through s/v Totem and we tagged along as they showed us the island. We dinghied through dense mangrove canals, sometimes just wide enough (barely!) for one dinghy. We went through a broad, clear turquoise lagoon where sea turtles swam around and under our boat. We walked along beaches, saw waves crash over rocks and found some beautiful shells. It was quite the introduction to the island, and we have s/v Mahi to thank for that!

Mangroves! photo courtesy of Behan on s/v Totem

The next day, Mike and the girls followed along with s/v Totem and s/v Mahi as they explored the island by car, while I stayed on the boat with Haven. They visited a shallow beach cave, gorgeous beach flats and found some beautiful marine life.

when the tide is out, the beach is dry and beautifully pattered by waves
photo courtesy of Behan on s/v Totem
photo courtesy of Behan on s/v Totem

The island is fairly remote. In 2010, the population of the islands was about 800 people. The town near Great Harbor Cay (“Cay” is pronounced “key”) is small. There is no bank, only two small grocery stores (about the size of a gas station mart back home), plus a couple of small restaurants and a marina which brings a lot of boats to the area.

visiting the first local grocery store with Carla from s/v Mahi and Behan from s/v Totem
the second store

I bought a bag of fresh fruits there and felt content that we still had more than we needed. After all, we had a fridge stocked with butter, plenty of cheese, some sausage, vegetables and a freezer that kept things even colder for longer. Plus we had lockers packed with canned foods, grains of all kinds, desserts and snacks.

After a few days at Great Harbor Cay, we traveled around to Hawk’s Nest Cay to be closer to our destination of Eleuthera when we were ready to cross. We met another boat family and decided to hang out on the gorgeous, pristine beaches for a few extra days. There was no marina there, just nearby a little restaurant on the other side of the beach. And that is where our fridge catastrophically broke.

a rough passage to Hawk’s Nest Cay
the waters at Hawk’s Nest Cay were breathtaking

It had been showing signs of malfunction back in Florida, and Mike, being the handy man that he is, had been tinkering with it since then, trying to get it to begin functioning normally again. It was cycling too often and not maintaining a cold temperature, but eventually, it would always get cold again. It was a minor annoyance until we were anchored in a beautiful, but remote part of the Berry Islands. There, its temperature skyrocketed and it was officially done being a fridge.

We quickly gave the bulk of our cheese (one huge block, one huge bag of shredded, and a few blocks of cream cheese) to our friends traveling with us. We kept a little cheese that we knew we could eat. We started eating through the 2 dozen eggs we had left and decided to keep the butter, even though we still had a ton. It seemed like the old saying “Cruising is just boat maintenance in exotic locations” was absolutely true, but the fridge finally dying meant that there was one less thing we had to figure out how to fix with only the supplies we had on board. Truthfully, we were relieved!

From our experience so far, embracing the unexpected is an integral part of happy cruising. But that doesn’t mean it is always easy. Being flexible, changing plans, embracing set backs is all part of this life. It’s a part of every life, but traveling on a boat, it’s a much more daily, in our face reality. One that we are choosing to accept.

Many cruising boats do not have fridges and they get along just fine without it. Now we are experimenting to see if we can do without one too. Bonus for us: we get to keep way more power now that we don’t have a fridge! The fridge and freezer used a lot of power that we made from our solar panels and wind generator. Now we can use that extra power to keep lights and fans on a little longer, and even use the TV that came with the boat!

our favorite recipe that doesn’t need a fridge: energy balls made with peanut butter, oats, and dates

We are buying ice and keeping a few items in the section that used to be our freezer. For now this works for us: keeping a few eggs, a little cheese and butter from melting is all we really need. We mostly cook up pasta, hearty vegetables, rice and beans, potatoes, breads, Mexican dishes using flour or corn tortillas, canned fruit or some fresh fruit and soups with biscuits or sandwiches. Meat is a treat now. When our ice is cold, we may buy meat for one night or eat it when we are out at a restaurant. We certainly appreciate certain foods more now than before!

Haven loves the beach too

We have since moved on to a different island in the Bahamas called Eluethera and are continuing to face challenges and joys. With cruising, there are always opportunities to practice embracing the unexpected!

 

 

First Days in the Bahamas! Exploring Alice Town, Bimini

First Days in the Bahamas! Exploring Alice Town, Bimini

We made it! We motored into the crowded anchorage as the sun was getting low. We were relieved, excited, tired. All the work, planning, and preparation to be ready to leave the US, and now here we were ready to explore this chain of islands called the Bahamas. But the Bahamas would have to wait. As the forecast predicted, the next day brought strong winds with gusts in the 30 knot range. Not the worst we’ve experienced, but poor weather for island exploring. We decided at least to explore a jetty of nearby rocks and survey the anchorage by dinghy.

While we waited for the winds to stop howling, we passed the time getting together with the crew from s/v Banana and s/v Totem, whom we sailed with from Ft. Lauderdale.

Haven with Behan from s/v Totem

Finally, the winds quieted, the waves calmed and we decided to explore the island of Bimini. A small island, the north end where we anchored, is home to a large resort and casino, so it didn’t feel like we had traveled to an exotic little getaway. But it still had its treasures: the water being one of them. An array of blue, green, clear and turquoise jewel tones, the water absolutely beckons to all who have the privilege of seeing it.

The day before we planned to leave Bimini for The Berry Islands, we decided to take a day to walk around Alice Town and swim in the sparkling turquoise water. Our walk proved to be very interesting. The stark contrast between the resort section of the island where we happened to be anchored, and Alice Town was surprising and a little uncomfortable. On one side stood a towering resort; popular music flowed out of the casino, a beautiful fountain gushed in the middle of a pool. As we walked to the other side of the island, we walked through an arced entrance separating the resort section from the rest of the community.

Alice Town is beautiful in its own way. It has the flavor of a town straddling two worlds: it’s an easy jump from the United States, but it’s also it’s own country, with a distinct island culture.

We walked through the narrow streets, stopping for cars or golf carts driving by. The buildings were small, but colorful. The people were very friendly, smiling and waving to each passerby was very common. We stopped by a house with a bakery sign posted in the window. We opened the door and walked in to see a lady at her kitchen table, food simmering in the background. She greeted us and we bought a loaf of bread stored in a plastic tote under her window. As we left, she gave the girls a warm chocolate chip cookie, fresh from her oven. A very different experience for us- but wonderful and tasty too!

We heard their was a library nearby, something I was eager to see, but this was not the kind of library the girls and I were used to!

I was really glad we took the time to see more of the island before we continued on our journey. The Berry Islands was a long hop from Bimini, over 80 miles, but we were looking forward to an island more isolated from such a busy port.

Bimini was only the beginning of our sojourn, but I am really glad we got to experience this little island!

Our Gulf Stream Crossing

Our Gulf Stream Crossing

Sunrise on the ocean

Wednesday, March 22 was the day. The seas were forecasted to be calm, winds almost nonexistent. Our provisions were bought and stored in lockers, our belongings stowed securely, the engine check was complete and we were exhausted…but ready to embark on a new leg of our journey- to the Bahamas!

We set our alarm for 6:15 am, plenty of time to get ready for our 7am departure from Ft. Lauderdale to meet a bridge at its opening at 7:30am. Unfortunately, we awoke to the emerging sun and a dead cell phone at 6:55am! We scrambled, but were able to pull up anchor and leave the anchorage just a couple minutes past the hour. It was a sleepy cool, calm morning; a perfect day to cross the gulf stream.

The view from our cockpit
As we leave the inlet, heading out into the sea
The gulf stream is a current of fast moving, warm water in the ocean that flows north along the east coast of the United States. It flows at an average speed of three knots, and can be tricky to cross. Winds from the north can create large dangerous swells, winds from the east means your boat will be beating into the wind, both scenarios create a very uncomfortable ride and should be avoided. We wanted winds from the south or west, and we had a very light west wind, which was perfect. However, Thursday was forecasted to bring in high winds, so we had just one day to cross and find a protected anchorage to wait out the coming nasty weather. One day would be more than enough, since we were anticipating the trip to take us about 10-11 hours.
As we left the inlet and headed out into the ocean, the waves gently rocked our boat, a unique motion that we were becoming familiar with.
The sea
Mommy and the girls relaxing in the cockpit
s/v Totem up ahead
 So what do our passage days look like? I (Brittany) have come to really enjoy passage days, provided of course I have taken a little motion sickness medication. Passage days, whether on the ICW or the ocean are different from our normal days. Chores are put on pause, cooking is light, school is done only if the girls want to. Mostly we spend time in the cockpit, keeping Daddy company, excitedly looking at all the new scenery, keeping our eyes peeled for birds, fish and especially dolphins.
Passage days on the ocean are especially laid back. The motion medication makes Marlee and me drowsy, so I take time for a couple of short naps and the girls will usually sleep longer in the afternoon too. I like to spend most of my time in the cockpit, feeling the rush of the ocean breeze on my skin, watching the waves and documenting our adventures with my camera.
This trip, the girls were really excited to try out their new tethers and harnesses. The harnesses we bought, but we made their tethers out of very strong webbing. They loved being able to roam the cockpit without the bulkiness of a lifejacket, but still feeling secure.
Marlee, deep in thought, watching the sea
The harnesses wrap around their torso, and the tether is attached to a jackline running along the floor of the cockpit. The tether is attached to the harness in the middle of their chest with a strong, locking carabineer.
Hannah with her harness on
Our little monkeys
Besides having small toys out for them to play with in the cockpit, I’ll have play dough or coloring books ready to go on the table. I’ll also usually set up a movie for them on our computer during ocean passages, and they also love reading books on my Kindle.
Reading a book in my Kindle

On this trip we got a fun surprise! It was still morning, we were motoring and enjoying the sapphire blue water when we saw something flutter over our heads. At first we thought it was a butterfly, but then Mike spotted it, a tiny bird that landed on one of our lines!

Hello little bird

This adorable bird stayed on our stern for about a half an hour. We wondered where he had come from and what he was doing so far from land. But soon enough, we saw another little bird, just like himself, fly towards us and they flit and fluttered off together. We had fun the rest of the day making up stories about this cute little creature!

Soon we noticed we had lost speed; we were entering the gulf stream. Because we were going east, we anticipated that we would lose a little time in the gulf stream; its fast moving current would hinder our movement. But since our winds were from the west and very light, we didn’t have the large uncomfortable swells that would have formed in different conditions. It was a very pleasant ride.

Later we noticed that we were gaining speed once again and could assume that we were leaving the push of the gulf stream.

As we finally neared the island of Bimini in the Bahamas we raised a little yellow flag on our starboard spreader: our quarantine flag. This displays to all that we have just arrived and have not yet reported to customs to check in.

As we rounded the little island and began looking for our anchorage, we couldn’t believe the bright turquoise clear water! It was shades of light green, blue-green and clear turquoise. It was like looking at a swimming pool, and we could spy sea grass all the way at the bottom! The girls were exclaiming in delight over the bright sparkling sea.

It took us more than an hour that first evening, to find the perfect spot to drop anchor, but eventually we did and we could relax after a long day of travel. But we were here! We had made it to the Bahamas! We knew strong, high winds and rain were coming our way, but we hoped that soon we could experience all the treasures this island, and others could offer!

Preparing + Provisioning for 3 Months in the Bahamas

Preparing + Provisioning for 3 Months in the Bahamas

Just a fraction of our total provisions

It’s crunch time! We’re making lists and checking them twice, and no we’re not getting ready for the Christmas holiday. We’re getting ready for our first jaunt out of the country and into Bahamian waters! That means for this family of five, we’re shopping and storing all kinds of food and other items to use while we are there. But why? Don’t they eat in the Bahamas? Don’t they have grocery stores? Yes!

It will take two days to arrive at our proposed first destination, Nassau, Bahamas. It’s always a good idea to have extra food on board for a passage, since it takes time to get where you are going and get acquainted with the nearby stores. But what we have heard and read about the Bahamas is that their food is expensive! We’ve heard cruiser horror stories of a single bell pepper costing $8.00, and a few meager vegetables costing as much as a entire cart full back home.

Friends of ours, a family of three cruising the Bahamas currently on their sailboat, s/v Sandflea, gave us some interesting advice. He said,

“Go to the store and don’t come out until you’ve spent $1,000.”

He warned us of small jars of peanut butter costing $9.00, a simple loaf of bread for $6.00 and a package of Oreos for $12.00! We’ve read especially that snack foods can be very expensive so we were told to be sure to bring your own with you. (Check out all the adventures of s/v Sandflea here!)

We’re planning on exploring the breathtaking islands in the far Bahamas first then possibly making our way back to the Abacos. We don’t want to rush, so we’re expecting to use up the remaining months of cruising season in the Bahamas (2-3 month trip) before finding a protected nook to wait out hurricane season, most likely on the east coast. So our food buying has been based around this number- at least 8 weeks of provisions.

We were able to make one trip to Sam’s with the help of a friend’s car
Getting it on board is not the easiest!

So what are we storing and where do we store it? Besides the non-food items like sunscreen, bug spray, motion sickness medicine (as well as a medical kit with bandages and other medicines), toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaners, we are storing mostly non-perishable items plus some cold items in our freezer. Our freezer doesn’t truly freeze so we’re not stocking up on fresh meats. Our freezer is currently stocked with a ridiculous amount of cheese in all forms(shredded, bar, sliced), a little turkey sausage and butter (with a bag of ice on top). Our fridge holds the rest of the butter, lots of eggs, fresh vegetables and a little meat, as well as condiments.

For those who wants more detail, here are some amounts of things we have stowed:

Non-perishable:

  • 15 boxes of cereal (variety)
  • 3 boxes of pancake mix
  • 4 canisters quick oats
  • 2 bottles of honey
  • Peanut butter, 6 jars of crunchy and 5 of creamy
  • 3 packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 16 Tetra paks of Almond milk
  • 29 cans of fruit (variety)
  • 5 large jars of unsweetened applesauce
  • 5 packages of raisins
  • 1 large bag of almonds
  • 2 large family size boxes of Ritz crackers plus a box of saltines
  • 9 cans of chicken breast in water
  • 19 cans of black beans
  • 16 cans of corn
  • 7 cans of baked beans

This doesn’t include staples like flour, sugar, rice, juice, other canned meats and vegetables, plus a few packages of cookies, graham crackers, dried fruit, chips, and granola bars.

Plus perishable items like:

 

  • 5 dozen eggs
  • 9 boxes of butter (4 sticks in each box)
  • 2 half gallon containers of cold Almond milk

We also have a large gear hammock stocked with fresh produce: a bag of apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi, plus avocados, onions, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and spaghetti squash. In the fridge we keep carrots, sliced cantaloupe and broccoli.

You can quickly tell what is important to us! Peanut butter, butter, beans, fruit and cereal! Every family will have their own things that they like and want to have while cruising.

Counting, sorting…
I have the best helper!
Moving the rice into zip lock bags

So where do we store all this food? We have a good amount of storage on our boat, but it’s an art to learning where and how to store things safely and easy to get to.

Under the cushions on our settees, there are lids that open to deep lockers where we store almost all of our non-perishables. We have storage under both our settees on either side of our table.

One of our settees
The lockers where we store our food

We also have a tall locker in the “hallway” before entering the girl’s v-berth, where we store some food items, white vinegar and the many diapers and wipes we keep on board.

We are the rarer breed of cruiser in that we have two small children and an infant on board. That means a lot of diapers. We keep diapers for Haven (1 year old) Hannah (3 years old) for night and nap time and even for our oldest (6 years old) occasionally for nighttime.

On board we have stocked over 1,500 wipes, over 250 infant diapers and almost 60 pull-ups! I’m hoping this is enough!

 

 

It’s a lot of work: shopping, carrying bags back in the dinghy, wiping all cans clean of salt water and removing labels, stowing and keeping track of what’s on the boat. But it’s fun too! We’re gearing up for an experience, an adventure that we will remember forever!

{For those who want to know how we calculated how much food we needed, we used this spreadsheet here.}